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A Shaw Communications sign at the company's headquarters in Calgary on Jan. 14, 2015.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

In the span of one month, Shaw Communications Inc. has executed a dramatic transformation of its business with a renewed focus on its legacy role as a communications provider.

Wednesday's news that it is now shedding its broadcast media assets in a $2.65-billion sale to Corus Entertainment Inc. came four weeks after Shaw said it will pay $1.6-billion to acquire startup wireless carrier Wind Mobile Corp.

Analysts have broadly characterized Shaw's bid to get into the wireless market as a necessary move but fretted over the company's debt leverage and wondered how it would pay for Wind. Shuffling the television assets over to Corus – which is also controlled by the Shaw family but operates as a separate public company – helps answer that nagging question for Shaw investors.

Greg MacDonald, head of research at Macquarie Capital Markets, said that much like the Wind deal, the Corus transaction was "better late than never." Shaw's stock climbed 5.3 per cent to close at $24.70, regaining some of the ground it lost after announcing the Wind deal.

If both transactions successfully close, they will point Calgary-based Shaw in a distinctly different direction than it was heading five years ago when it scrapped a planned investment in its own cellular network shortly after acquiring CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s broadcast properties out of that company's restructuring process.

At the time, chief executive officer Brad Shaw said it was crucial for the company to own both media assets and the pipes to distribute that content. "We believe going forward, to compete, vertical integration is necessary. And we're just on the cusp of it, I think," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail in March, 2011.

But in the wake of Shaw's CanWest purchase and Montreal telephone company BCE Inc.'s acquisition of the CTV network, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) promptly struck a public hearing and issued new rules by September, 2011, prohibiting vertically integrated players from keeping content exclusive to themselves and making it more difficult to truly take advantage of the ownership overlap. Since then, television advertising revenues have also fallen and the broadcast industry is on the cusp of major change as new rules forcing the unbundling of television channels are about to come into force.

Now, Mr. Shaw says it is time to focus on the value the company can extract from selling customers access to broadband data, whether it's over cable Internet in the home or mobile connections on the go through Shaw's network of more than 70,000 WiFi hot spots across Western Canada or its new mobile offering in Wind.

"For Shaw, this is a significant milestone that positions us as a leading pure-play connectivity company," Mr. Shaw said in a memo to Shaw employees Wednesday morning when the Corus sale was announced (he was not available for an interview as Shaw is in a quiet period ahead of reporting its quarterly earnings on Thursday). "Proceeds of this sale will fund our acquisition of Wind and will allow Shaw to further focus on delivering to our consumer and business customers by further investing and developing our broadband communications."

Macquarie's Mr. MacDonald said he sees the deal as a "clear positive for Shaw," writing in a note to clients: "Strategically, this sale aligns with our sector investment thesis that broadcast media is in structural decline. The sale eliminates this risk and should refocus investors on Shaw as a pure-play broadband company."

Yet, Shaw will still face financial challenges as it will need to invest in upgrading Wind's patchy third-generation network and will sacrifice revenues from the media business.

Moody's Investors Service's senior vice-president Bill Wolfe called the Wind and Corus transactions "strategically appropriate" and affirmed the agency's rating on Shaw's debt at Baa3, or subject to moderate credit risk, with a "stable" outlook. However, he also cautioned: "Despite our expectation that leverage of debt-to-EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] will remain consistent with year-end 2015 levels [with debt at] about 2.7 [times EBITDA], Shaw's financial flexibility deteriorates as it takes on a cash flow negative wireless operation, divests the positive free cash flow contribution provided by media, and leaves its dividend unchanged."

With files from Susan Krashinsky